I had a letter from the House of Lords. The writer thanked me for the copy of Border Line that I had sent “because we are debating the Assisted Suicide Bill…”, apologised for taking so long to read it, owing to so many other commitments, and gave me his/her comments on the book and the topic.
So far so very surprising and gratifying. BUT I did not, to my knowledge, send them a copy of Border Line. I did write to another member of the House of Lords, to ask them to support the Assisted Dying Bill currently making its way through parliament. I argued from personal experience for individual choice in end of life decisions. I didn’t mention my book – Border Line is fiction and only tangentially related to the topic.
Now memory is a funny thing and it is always possible that I had a whim, parcelled the book up and posted it to this person, and that I failed to record it on my list, or write a letter to go with it, and yet their letter implies that it arrived with at least a note from me. Curiouser and curiouser.
The letter is very generous and kind, and indeed it is astonishing that someone this busy should have read my novel and bothered to write and thank me. However there were also some jarring notes. The bill is for ‘Assisted Dying’, not, as they suggest, ‘Assisted Suicide’ – there is a difference. They interpreted comments made by Joanna Trollope about her own wishes not to be a nuisance in her old age and her preference for being able to choose assisted dying when her time came, as implying that people who had become a nuisance should be put away whether they wished it or not. This is a tricky area, but I believe it will be possible to draft legislation which allows those of us who have expressed a wish to be helped to die when that time comes, to do so, while also protecting anyone who wishes to stay alive as long as possible.